North Dakota
The debate over hate crimes laws continues in North Dakota, the Wahpeton Daily News reports:

The ADL defines hate crimes as those where a person or institution is targeted because of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The ADL says they make it possible to bring stiffer penalties.
North Dakota has no such law except for one meant to stop intimidation or interference during campaigning or voting, based on a person’s sex, race, color, religion, or national origin, according to the ADL.
“There are clear gaps in both the actions and the groups covered,” says Steve Freeman, ADL’s National Director for Legal Affairs.
Barry Nelson, a member of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition and the Fargo Human Relations Commission, is leading an effort to research hate crimes legislation elsewhere to see what works and what doesn’t.

Manitoba
Protesters tried to derail Portage la Prairie Pride last weekend. It didn’t work, according to the CBC:

The people behind a rural Manitoba Pride celebration are vowing to not let protesters get in they way of spreading a message of love after a picket surrounded their march.
“You can’t be leading your life with hate in your heart,” said Will Garrioch, a gay man who helped organize Portage la Prarie Pride.
Garrioch said at least 50 protesters picketed outside the second annual parade, many holding religious signs. The demonstrators arrived well before the event Saturday.
1st Portage la Prairie Pride draws protesters
“They were set up all over town this year unfortunately and once they figured out what our route was for the parade they really jam-packed around in there,” added Callie McArthur, a Pride organizer.
Portage la Prairie Pride volunteers said the protesters were singing hymns to marchers and were handing out hateful messages on pamphlets emblazoned with a photo of a noose.
McArthur said organizers are taking a proactive approach to the protesters and didn’t take photos of them. The group would like to focus on love, not hate, she added.

Wisconsin
As La Crosse Pride ended, some revelers decided to graffiti a church with pro-LGBTQ messages, the Christian Post reports:

Cornerstone Community Church and other businesses in La Crosse, Wisconsin, were attacked by vandals who spray-painted message on the buildings’ walls and windows using red spray paint.
“Vandals spray painted an orange sun and circle, male anatomy, ‘Love 4 NOT H8,’ ‘Love’ and ‘LGBTQ’ in an umbrella and an upside down cross,” the La Cross Tribune reported on Wednesday.
Vandals spray-painted red graffiti LGBT messages on Cornerstone Community Church, the Cavalier Theater, Sequel Resale Shop and Credit Bureau Data, in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on September 9, 2017.
“In the same alley, ‘Sinners’ was written in spray paint next to a derogatory hand sign, ‘I’M GAY,’ and ‘Femme F. The Church’ with an upside down cross and flower on the wall of the Cornerstone Community Church.”
As to possible motives, LaCourse noted that there was a “Pride weekend happening in town,” but also that the theater and church are located near many bars and a University of Wisconsin campus.

“On weekend nights there’s a steady parade of students walking past my building on their way home after being downtown. There is quite often behaviors that happen in that alley that are fitting to college students being drunk,” said LaCourse.

“I would guess somebody who was taking part in Pride weekend got emotionally charged from celebrating and wanted to share their slogans via spray-painted messages.”

South Dakota
A PFLAG chapter has launched in Brookings, the Brookings Register reports:

Support; education; advocacy.
Those are the watchwords of a PFLAG – Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – local chapter forming in Brookings.
There is presently one other chapter in the state, at Spearfish. A chapter had been formed in Sioux Falls, but it no longer meets.
The Brookings chapter met Saturday morning at Ascension Lutheran Church to continue work on its bylaws, in preparation for a kickoff event at the Brookings Public Library at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 28.
Committee members present were the Rev. Teri Johnson, president and chair; Trevor Clements, vice president; Sandy Olson, secretary; Lawrence Novotny, treasurer; the Rev. Larry Ort, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church; and the Rev. Michael Mortvedt. A seventh member, Ruth Harper, was absent.
“We’re hoping to be a catalyst, a support group,” Johnson, pastor of United Church of Christ and a professor at South Dakota State University, said. “One of the critical pieces of PFLAG is that it’s not a political organization, not a religious organization. It’s a support group for families, allies and friends.

Iowa
A small Iowa town is experiencing a heated debate as many residents push for equity for transgender students, the Des Moines Register reports:

Allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choosing became a linchpin issue in the Fairfield school board race.

The issue prompted heated campaigns that drew an unusually high number of voters to the polls Tuesday in the southeast Iowa community.

Fairfield became a political battleground after a transgender student’s car was vandalized in 2016. The school board passed guidelines and renovated school facilities to offer transgender students protection, causing a backlash that found its way into this week’s school board election.

“It was a litmus test on political and religious ideology,” said Ben Picard, one of the 15 candidates who ran for Fairfield’s school board. “There’s a side that believes that they won and there’s another side, at the very least, that believes they are right.”

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Andy Birkey

Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.

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